Saturday, April 15, 2017

Little Spice Jar: Firecracker Chicken Meatballs


Every year I swear it gets harder and harder to make a dish that I can take to a family gathering and get everyone to eat.  Like moving-a-mountain impossible.  I've got medical issues to work around, weird aversions to certain ingredients, someone who pretty much only eats meat and potatoes, and someone who tries to keep the food fresh and healthy and without chemicals.  Okay, that last one is me.  Trouble maker: identified.  But I think I've found a good option here.  Meat, but not heavy, greasy meat.  Carbs are almost nonexistent in the meatballs.  Flavorful sauce hides lack of carbs, but don't take too much because sugar.  Crunchy lettuce works well with spicy meatballs.  I'm moving a mountain, one meatball at a time.

Firecracker Chicken Meatballs
Adapted from Little Spice Jar blog

2 pounds ground chicken thighs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Sliced green onions, for garnish
Boston lettuce leaves, for serving

Firecracker Sauce:
¾ cup Frank's hot sauce
1½ cups packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on spice preference)

Position 2 racks near the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 475ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the ingredients of the Firecracker Sauce over medium-high heat, allow to come to a boil, reduce the heat so it simmers. Let simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the sauce to cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools, so don’t worry if it looks thin.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, panko, eggs, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and white pepper. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together. The mixture should be sticky. DO NOT OVERMIX, it will result in drier meatballs.

Shape the meat mixture into ball, about 1 inch in diameter. Place shaped meatballs on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the meatballs are completely cooked.

Place meatballs in serving dish and pour the sauce over the meatballs, making sure each meatball gets coated in the sauce.  Sprinkle with green onions and serve with Boston lettuce leaves.

Makes 44 meatballs

Saturday, April 08, 2017

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Lemp Mansion German-Style Cut Green Beans


I love these green beans.  I'm not sure what else to say, really.  They are just that good.  I even considered just cooking some plain white rice and eating these green beans on top of it for the whole week.  It's green beans in gravy, and somehow that seems to defy all the rules of eating your vegetables, but is somehow perfect.  If you have some kids and you struggle to get green stuff into them, try this dish.  If they don't eat it like it's chocolate cake, your children have serious problems and probably need a therapist.

Lemp Mansion German-Style Cut Green Beans
From the St. Louis Post Dispatch and Lemp Mansion restaurant

2 (14½-ounce) cans cut green beans
4 to 6 slices bacon, chopped
½ medium onion, diced small
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons chicken base
1½ teaspoons beef base
¼ teaspoon sea salt (optional)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 drops Kitchen Bouquet
Extra cooked bacon and onion, for garnish

Heat oven to 400°F.

Reserving the liquid for the gravy, drain the green beans for at least 15 minutes. Once drained, place beans in an oven-safe shallow baking pan.

In a large, heavy saucepan, sauté bacon on medium high heat until slightly crispy.  Add onion and use a whisk to sauté onions until they are slightly golden but still retain some texture, about 3 minutes.  Add margarine, let it melt, then stir in.  Sprinkle about half the flour over top, stir in well, then add remaining flour. Stir constantly on low heat until floury taste cooks off, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir in reserved green bean liquid and bring to a boil, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Let simmer for about 5 minutes until mixture thickens, stirring often.  Stir in chicken base, beef base, salt (if desired), pepper, and Kitchen Bouquet. Let cook for 5 minutes.  Pour hot gravy over top of the beans without stirring in. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until beans are hot.

To serve Lemp Mansion-style, transfer hot beans to a large serving bowl and top with extra bacon and onion.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Mission Lutheran Church: Shrimp and Rice Casserole


Tonight I was feeling very retro.  I just wanted something warm and comforting.  Something that comes in a casserole dish and screams '70's at the top of its lungs.  And luckily I found exactly what I wanted in an old community cookbook.  I swear, those housewives knew exactly what they were doing.  We all pretend like we're super foodies and above this kind of meal, but the moment any stress hits, we're right back to what mom used to cook.  Why?  Because it's good and non-threatening and reminds us of being 10 years old (when adulting was a far-away thing).

Shrimp and Rice Casserole
Adapted from Mission Lutheran Church community cookbook, Richardson, TX

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped green pepper
⅓ cup chopped roasted red pepper
1 small jalapeño, deveined and deseeded, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Emeril's Essence
½ teaspoon Goya Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning without pepper (blue lid)
2½ cups cooked long-grain white rice
1 (10½ ounce) can condensed cream of shrimp soup
1 (10½ ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
⅓ cup sour cream
1½ pounds large shrimp, cleaned and patted dry
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
⅓ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
½ cup panko

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, then add celery, green and red pepper, jalapeño, green onions, and garlic.  Sprinkle with Emeril's Essence and Adobo seasoning.  Sauté until onions are translucent and tender.  Add the shrimp and cook until they start to turn opaque.  Lower heat to medium and mix in the cooked rice, canned soups, and sour cream.  Add white pepper and parsley.  Stir well and cook until warmed through.  Pour into a large casserole dish and sprinkle with panko.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 12 servings

Friday, March 31, 2017

Life Made Simple: Mint Chocolate Brownies


I don't know why, but lately I've had the most ridiculous craving for mint.  Well, mint and chocolate actually.  And what better vehicle for getting mint and chocolate into your face than making up some rich brownies and then slathering them in mint frosting?  There's none, I promise you that.  And to just gild the lily a touch, you top it off with more chocolate.  I would eat something light for dinner, because you're going to want room for dessert.

Note:  I used some natural food coloring to add a slight green color to my frosting, but this particular food coloring came in small individual packets which cannot be closed again after using a small portion, which seems a ridiculous waste of almost $7.  My wish for all those food scientists out there: make some good natural food coloring that comes in resealable mini bottles and doesn't cost a small fortune.

Mint Chocolate Brownies
From Life Made Simple blog

For the brownies:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
⅛ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup chopped chocolate or nuts (optional)

For the mint frosting:
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-2 drops green food coloring (optional)
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

For the chocolate ganache:
¾ cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 baking pan with foil and lightly coat with baking spray, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the melted butter, sugars and vanilla extract for 30 seconds on medium. With mixing speed on low, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined.
In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. With mixing speed on low, gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until no flour pockets remain. Remove the bowl from the stand and using a spatula, fold in the chopped chocolate or nuts if desired.

Pour batter into the prepared pan, spreading into an even layer. Place in the oven and bake for 23-26 minutes or until set, taking care not to overbake. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes or until brownies are no longer warm (you can speed up the process by letting them cool uncovered in the refrigerator).
Meanwhile, to make the mint frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, food coloring, peppermint extract and salt until creamy, about 1 minute on medium high. Add the powdered sugar, then the milk (or heavy cream) until it reaches the desired consistency. Beat for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Frost cooled brownies, then toss uncovered into the freezer for 10 minutes.
During the last minute of freeze time, in a microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips, butter and heavy cream. Heat on half powder (mine is usually power 10, so I did 5) for one minute, stir, then repeat. Stir chocolate until all of the chips are melted and it becomes smooth. Beat for 1 minute and then pour over the top of the cold frosted brownies. Spread evenly and place in the refrigerator uncovered to set for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving (SEE NOTES).

Notes
-This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9x13" pan. Adjust the baking time accordingly.
-For easy cutting it's best to chill these brownies for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour in the refrigerator or 30 minutes in the freezer before slicing with a sharp knife. The hot water method is not necessary, for a clean cut wipe your knife on a paper towel after each slice.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Abuelo's: Papas con Chile (Potatoes with Chile)


I know this is probably going to seem strange to some, but one of my favorite things at a local Tex-Mex restaurant is their mashed potatoes.  Now wait, these aren't just any old mashed potatoes.  These are cheesy, chile mashed potatoes.  And somehow they go perfectly next to that enchilada doused in chili sauce.  In fact, the chile sauce is almost like the perfect Tex-Mex gravy for these puppies.  And lucky me, the restaurant actually released the recipe on their Facebook page.  And the crowd goes wild!

Note: Yes, I know.  Velveeta.  Chemical cheese.  I hear you.  But if you do any sort of investigating into restaurant recipes, you'll quickly realize that any sort of melty cheese dish incorporates a type of special melting cheese (I've heard rumors that it's from Land o' Lakes) that closely approximates Velveeta.  So basically, you're eating it anyway.  Ignorance is bliss.

Papas con Chile (Potatoes with Chile)
From Chef Luis at Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant

3 pounds red potatoes
3 ounces cream cheese, cut into 2-inch squares
½ cup heavy cream
10 ounces Velveeta, cut into 2-inch squares
1½ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon granulated garlic
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup diced red bell peppers
½ cup diced green bell peppers
2 cans chopped green chiles
½ cup chopped green onion tops
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeño, seeds removed

Wash and scrub potatoes until clean. Place potatoes in a pot covered with water and boil until soft. Drain potatoes. Add the rest of ingredients and mash. Be sure all ingredients are incorporated.

Makes 6 servings

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chowhound: Jamaican Curry Goat


Whenever there's something unusual to be found at my local grocery store, I'm the first to snatch it up.  Okay, maybe not the first first, but pretty close.  I know exactly where they put all the cool stuff.  And I certainly noticed when they set out some fabulous slabs of frozen goat.  The first thing I thought of was the amazing curry goat that I'd had at a local restaurant, and I really wanted to replicate that experience.  Luckily, the owner of that restaurant has a small dry goods section near the register with some imported Jamaican goodies.  His suggestion?  Add a little bit of jarred jerk paste at the end of cooking to give it that fresh hit of spice and flavor.

Jamaican Curry Goat
Adapted from Chowhound

3 pounds goat meat with bone, cut in large cubes
3 tablespoons Goya Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning without pepper (blue lid)
2 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
1 large yellow onion, medium-dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped medium-coarse
4 sprigs fresh thyme
5 whole allspice berries
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 fresh Scotch bonnet pepper, leave whole and cut small "X" in bottom
2 tablespoons Jamaican curry powder

Trim excess fat from meat cubes, season with 2 tablespoons of Adobo seasoning and let sit for 30 minutes.

Chop onions, garlic, and green onions while meat is marinating in Adobo seasoning.

Heat oil in large, heavy-bottomed pot and fry 1 tablespoon of the curry powder in the oil until curry powder darkens. Immediately add goat meat cubes along with chopped onions, garlic, green onions, thyme, whole allspice, and black pepper. Stir and fry over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Add remaining curry powder, the whole scotch bonnet pepper, and remaining 1 tablespoon of Adobo seasoning. Add hot water to cover, stir well, and bring to boil. Lower heat to a simmer.

After 40 minutes remove the whole scotch bonnet pepper (if you like extremely hot food you can leave it in the pot).  Continue cooking, uncovered, until meat is very tender (almost falling off bone), about another hour. You will need to replenish hot water several times in the cooking process, as needed. You will want a somewhat thick sauce on the meat, so if it’s still a bit watery when the meat is tender, turn up heat to medium, and cook off excess liquid until a somewhat thick sauce is formed.

Makes 6 servings

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Food.com: Jamaican Peas and Rice


When I visited San Francisco a year ago, one of the things I brought back with me was a package of some very fine red beans.  Smaller than kidney beans.  Perfect for red beans and rice (still on the to-be-cooked list).  But also perfect for a Jamaican side dish.  Especially for someone who likes her beans on the smallish side.  And when you cook this dish with all that ginger and allspice and coconut milk, you get the best darn rice and beans...err peas...that you've tasted.

Jamaican Peas and Rice
Adapted from food.com

¾ cup dried small red beans
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 slice ginger, ½-inch thick and 1 inch in diameter
3 allspice berries
4 cups water
1 (14½-ounce) can coconut milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ teaspoon Goya Adobo seasoning without pepper (blue lid)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 green onion, root removed, crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 fresh Scotch bonnet pepper, pierced with a sharp knife
1½ cups basmati rice

Combine the beans, garlic, ginger, allspice, and water in a saucepan. Cook, covered, over medium heat until tender, about 2 hours.

Add the coconut milk, butter, Goya seasoning, pepper to taste, green onion, thyme, and whole fresh pepper.  Bring to a boil, then remove the hot pepper.  Add the rice and stir.  Return to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 25 minutes, or until all the liquids have been absorbed. Serve hot as a side dish.

Makes 8 servings

Monday, March 13, 2017

Brennan's and Sally's Baking Addiction: Bananas Foster Cake


It's time for my lovely niece's birthday, and I was racking my brain for a delicious, moist cake that was kid friendly and could be baked up in a six inch pan, but was still enticing to the adults attending the dinner.  And what I came up with is this lovely banana cake, with a twist.  I made Bananas Foster, and then mashed it up and dumped it into the cake mix.  And what came out was pretty fantastic.  I think if I make this again, I'll make a double batch of Bananas Foster, and slather some of it in between the layers.  For the adults only, that is.

Bananas Foster Cake
Adapted from Brennan's and Sally's Baking Addiction

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup banana liqueur
4 medium bananas, sliced
¼ cup dark rum
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting

Melt butter, sugars, and cinnamon in a 12-inch heatproof skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, 4 minutes. Add banana liqueur and bananas; cook, until bananas are soft and slightly caramelized, 4 to 6 minutes. Add rum, and using a match or lighter, ignite to flambé; cook until flame dies out.  Spoon banana mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until cooled.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13-inch pan. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cooled banana mixture on low speed until creamy - about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs and the vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. The batter will be slightly thick and a few lumps is okay.

Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 (1-pound) box confectioner's sugar (about 3½ cups)
Milk or cream to adjust consistency of frosting, if necessary

Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the salt and vanilla. Beat in the sugar. Add a teaspoon of milk or cream if the frosting is too stiff to spread; add additional sugar if it's too thin.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Serious Eats: Muffuletta


It's that time of year again!  Time for lots and lots of gluttony in anticipation of Lent.  Except I don't celebrate Lent.  So there's no future of abstaining from something delicious for me.  But that doesn't stop me from celebrating Fat Tuesday in all its glory.  And this year I decided to go with a beautiful muffuletta sandwich.  Now, I did not bake the roll all myself, but the olive salad is from scratch, and I picked out the most beautiful meats to adorn this lovely beast.  And it was....too much for a mere mortal.  You'll need a couple of friends to help you finish this off.

Muffuletta
Adapted from Serious Eats

1 large round Italian sesame seed roll
¼ pound thinly sliced soppressata
¼ pound thinly sliced mortadella with pistachios
¼ pound thinly sliced coppa
4 slices mozzarella
4 slices smoked provolone
Olive Salad

Split muffuletta roll in half and spread each cut surface generously with olive salad, making sure to include the juices when spreading. Layer half of soppressata on bottom half of bun, followed by half of mortadella, half of coppa, half of mozzarella, and half of provolone. Repeat layers with remaining meat and cheese. Close sandwich and press down gently to compress. For best flavor, wrap tightly in paper or plastic and let rest for 1 hour before serving. Cut into triangular wedges to serve.

Makes 1 to 4 servings

Olive Salad
¾ cup pitted mixed oil-packed olives
2 tablespoons capers
¼ cup chopped roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons parsley leaves
½ cup giardiniera (Italian-style pickled vegetable salad)
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Combine olives, capers, peppers, parsley, giardiniera, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop until no pieces larger than ½-inch remain. Transfer to a bowl. Add vinegar and olive oil and stir to combine. For best results, let olive salad rest overnight.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Black Pearl: New England Clam Chowder


Having grown up outside of New England, I've never been a big clam chowder fan.  Especially since the versions you get in the rest of the US are pretty poor imitations.  But when I found myself in Rhode Island a year or so ago, I got the opportunity to try The Black Pearl, and boy, have my thoughts on clam chowder changed.

As explained by Chef Knerr in the old RI morning show footage I found on YouTube, ocean clams are tough little buggers, and they just aren't appealing to chew, but they have fan-friggin-tastic flavor.  Sea clams are light and tender, but don't pack a flavor punch.  What is a chef to do?  Well, ground up the tough ones and throw in the tender ones in pieces, thus achieving clam chowder nirvana and possibly world peace.

Note: This version of the soup may actually have more clams in it than the original restaurant version.  I fail to see that this is a bad thing.  Also, there is no bacon in this soup.  Shocking, I know.  This may in fact be NE chowder sacrilege.  However, as much as I love bacon (and boy, do I ever love bacon), I feel that it has a tendency to trample everything in its path, especially lovely delicate things.  Like sea clams.  So I think that while this soup would probably still be delicious with bacon (what isn't?), you really get to enjoy the loveliness of the clams in their purest form by leaving it out.

New England Clam Chowder
Adapted from Chef Daniel Knerr at Black Pearl restaurant, Newport, RI

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1½ teaspoons sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 (51-ounce) can chopped ocean clams (quahogs), drained, liquid reserved
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
2½ cups potatoes, peeled and diced small
2 cups half-and-half
1 (51-ounce) can chopped sea clams (surf clams), drained
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
Dry vermouth (optional)

Place the drained ocean clams in a food processor with a couple tablespoons of the reserved liquid and process until ground.  Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven, then add the onions and saute for a few minutes until translucent.  Add the thyme, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Sprinkle the flour and cornstarch over the onions, then mix together and cook for a minute to two until the flour starts to smell nutty, but doesn't change color.  Add the ground ocean clams, remaining reserved liquid, bottle of clam juice, and the cubed potatoes.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat back to medium and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or just until potatoes soften.  Remove from the heat and chill until thickened, preferably overnight.

Place Dutch oven over medium high heat and stir in the half-and-half.  When the soup starts to loosen up and warm through, add the chopped sea clams, butter, and dill.  Stir to combine and heat through.  Add Tabasco and vermouth, if desired.  Serve hot.

Makes 12 servings